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Top Chef: And Martha Stewart in a Pear Tree

Last week Ariane won, and this week she woke up without an alarm.  Good fortune is going her way!  Eugene, on the other hand, needed a wake up call from the judges.  Will one of these two go home this week?

Our Top Chef kitchen is decorated for Christmas, which likely confuses our contestants as it is still summertime during taping.  For the Quickfire, they are to make a one-pot holiday meal, that as usual must also be “delicious.”  Our judgmental and guest judge?  Martha “Sell High, Buy Low” Stewart! And being the queen of self-promotion, she’s carrying a copy of her newest book.  Martha offers this tip: Make it simple but not too simple.  And Martha should know, she cooks one-pot meals “quite a bit.”

While they cook we learn that Fabio was a naughty boy who used to “stir the polenta for hours” at his grandmother’s direction.  While Jamie and Ariane agree to taste each other’s food, Fabio and Stefan do not.  Eugene is making a pork stew and interviews that he’s using corn starch to thicken up his stew.  For you non-cooks out there, corn starch is to cooking like fabric glue is to sewing; it does the trick but you know it’s not as good.

During the tasting, Martha calls Eugene out on the corn starch before talking with Stefan about how she picks Chanterelle mushrooms.  (Who does that?!?)  Padma asks Jamie about whether she should have used scallops in the “winter” and Martha saves Jamie by talking about how she goes scallop diving in Maine in January.  Only Martha.

After trying everything, Martha did not like the taste of Jeff’s “po-tay-to” risotto and she hated the corn starch in Eugene’s stew.  He grumbles to the camera that many people use corn starch (yes, amateur cooks like me who aren’t vying to be on Top Chef).  She liked Hosea, Jamie, and Ariane’s “cau-lee-flower” and that Ariane tricked her taste buds by not using butter.  So Ariane wins both Martha’s praise and an autographed copy of Martha’s newest book.  Jamie is once again bitter at losing to Ariane, while Ariane enjoys her win, “from one Jersey girl to another.”  You know what they say, “Jersey girls, such a shame,” and Martha leaves.

Elimination challenge: Cater a holiday party for amfAR with 250 guests.  To help them get in the holiday mood (because it’s August), Padma summons the cast of The Lion King, no, no wait, it’s the Harlem Gospel Choir.  Carla is all OMG as they sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Hmmm, anyone else see where this is going?  They each get assigned one day and their food must be in the theme of that day.  The party host is Natasha Richardson and our guest judge is perennial Top Chef judge Michelle Bernstein.

Because we need to fill an extra 15 minutes of programming, we have to listen to the chefs try to sing their verse of the song.  In case you cared, Leah is beyond tone deaf and Fabio is the best.  But back to the purpose of the show; they shop for food and then prep in the kitchen.  We get a lot of footage about how full the refrigerators are so it’s not surprising that the next morning when the chefs learn that one of the doors did not close all the way.  Looks like Santa left spoiled food in the stockings.  Hosea and Radhika are the most affected, but in the spirit of Christmas, everyone chips in and helps them out.

At the party, Natasha Richardson introduces amFAR and compares the value of every life to how well the chefs will do in today’s challenge. (Talk about moral relativism.)  The guests are to pin an AIDS ribbon to the sign of the dish they like the most.  Carla is all “hoooo!” with Kenneth Cole even though she does not get new shoes.  As for the food, it’s rather disappointing between Jamie’s slimy food, Eugene’s too sweet food, and Ariane serving deviled eggs, which per Padma is not enough to lead to a win.  Meanwhile, Hosea and Jeff have the right attitude and flirt with the guests for pins.  Hosea tells Leah about how many ladies flirted with him.  As he brags to Leah about being a playa, those of us at home remember to hate the playa not the game.

Judges’ Table.  The winner, and favorite of the judges and the guests, is Hosea, who gets a copy of Michelle’s new book.  Michelle is also giving a copy of her book to all of the contestants since they helped out Hosea and Radhika.  See, kindness pays!  Our losers–Jamie, Eugene, and Melissa–then have to listen about how mediocre the were.  Of note, Eugene says he doesn’t know why he was on the bottom and he will stand by his dish 100%.  You’ll recall from past seasons that these are usually famous last words.  Hopefully Padma shoots down his delusions, though, by sharing that he only got eight ribbons.

So who’s going home for Christmas?  Well, Natasha explains, with the help of her good friend Albert Einstein, that “food is only as good as its ingredients,” (huh?) but she’s offended by Eugene thinking he has all of the answers.  In the end, the dishes were so bad the judges can’t justify sending anyone home.  Plus it’s Christmas and they were nice to each other.  Serious, that was the justification.  Anyway, Tom walks into the Stew Room, explains the disappointment.  It’s not as disappointing, though, as when Leah drops the f-bomb for no apparent reason.  So that’s it, no one goes home and we waste an additional 15 minutes on footage that did not contribute to the show.  Thanks a lot Bravo  and Happy Birthday, Jesus, sorry this episode was so lame.  I hope everyone’s real Christmas goes better than this episode.

Next week: No limits Top Chef, but remember this is Top Chef not Top Scallop.  (It is also not Top Sous Chef or Top Sommelier.)

P.S. Alexis says hello.

Season 5, Episode 6: 12 Days of Christmas (originally aired December 17, 2008)

For another take on this episode, check out Colicchio Gets Real! by Jaimie Campos.

For more on Top Chef, click here.

Wednesdays at 10/9C, Bravo

Photographs courtesy of Bravo

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